Short Term Rentals, 'Just Cause' and Energy Performance Disclosure

By Robin Chesnut-Tangerman and Sean Dillon

In the Vermont legislature this is crossover week. Generally speaking all bills that are not “money bills” like the budget and revenue bills must cross over to the other chamber by the end of this week if they are to advance this year. So House bills must clear the House and move to the Senate by Friday and vice versa.

Much of the discussion this winter has been about regulating short term rental (STR) housing. In recognition of that being a very complex issue the principle bill in play, H.200, is no longer in consideration for this session.

The likely bill going forward is S.79 which does a number of things. It creates a statewide registry of all rental properties both short term and long term under the Department of Housing and Community Development. It expands the jurisdiction of the Dept of Public Safety from fire inspections to general health and safety concerns. It incorporates language from a different bill (H.257) allocating $3 million for grants and loans through the Vermont Rental Housing Investment Program and $1 million for loans through the Vermont Homeownership Revolving Loan Fund. We support these allocations, though the $1 million allocation is facing lukewarm senate support.

A local initiative in Burlington prohibiting eviction without “just cause” passed overwhelmingly (63% in favor, 37% opposed) and now moves to the legislature for approval as a Charter Change. The legislature has generally but not always approved charter changes with strong local support.

Another charter change we are following with interest is in Montpelier. Two years ago city voters approved an ordinance for voluntary disclosure of a building’s energy performance at the time of listing. The city is now considering making disclosure mandatory. This would also require approval by the legislature.

There appears to be little action on the broader issue of Act 250 reform in this session.

The federal stimulus bill could bring another $1.25 billion to Vermont which would likely mean additional investments in housing, broadband, and a number of related areas.